If you’re appetite is for 1980’s horror nostalgia, or hipster burger joints, the twenty-teens is apparently the perfect time to be alive.
I happen to love both, but where some of the imitators of Stranger Things feel occasionally forced, The Void (as on the money as 2016’s Beyond The Gates), could have been pulled straight off the shelves of a video store in the 80’s. It seems fairly appropriate then, that I should’ve borrowed the movie from the New Release section of one of the few premium film rentals left in Melbourne.
Picture Search Video in Richmond is a great resource for film buffs and afficionado’s with three floors stacked with a wide range of DVD’s. I can’t always justify the answer when someone asks me why I would hire a film, when you can download anything you like at the touch of your fingertips these days. But in this case, I’m glad I did, if only for the special features and director’s commentary – which really added more depth to this film for me personally, as i’ll explain shortly.
The Void is a collaborative effort from writers and directors Jeremy Gillespie and Stephen Kostanski, nerdy horror fans with a lust for 80’s body horror, clearly drawing inspiration from John Carpenter’s characteristic style of animatronic monsters, in the vein of The Thing (1982) – with a sci-fi ending that evokes Event Horizon (1997).
After a surprisingly unexpected reverse twist, The Void focusses on Sheriff Deputy Carter as he leads the viewer on a gruesome and horrific trail of discovery. At the outset, we meet a father and son duo who appear to be brutally murdering a girl, however this set up is brilliantly subverted in the first ten minutes of the film, when we learn that the two aren’t murderers at all, but trying to save the city from a zombie-like virus spreading through the small town.
With the overdose of M. Night Shyamalan style twists in films these days, it’s utterly refreshing to be thoroughly surprised at the beginning of a film, instead of the end, and Gillespie and Kostanski deliver stable tension and plot turns for the rest of the movie. Meanwhile Deputy Carter, played enthusiastically by Aaron Poole, picks up a blood-soaked man and takes him to a nearby hospital. We shortly learn that something is going on amidst the eccentric night-shift workers at the hospital, and robed cultists with triangle shaped eye-holes begin to surround the building. As the strange disease takes hold, the characters in the hospital turn completely insane, and carnage ensues. The disease itself is enough of a mash-up to make it original, not your standard zombie plague, but a cast of unique horrors; a patient who cuts their own skin off and assaults her victims with a knife, followed by a string of once human, but now deformed monstrosities.
One of The Void’s failings, as outlined in the special features and director’s commentary on the DVD, is the rushed production time caused by a limited budget. I have to say, that on my first watch, I didn’t enjoy or appreciate the movie as much as I would have, had I seen the sheer scope of methodic detailing, hard work, the amazing animatronics, home-made gore and conceptual development as envisioned by Gillespie and Kostanski – all of which looked that much more amazing in the documentary than they came out on camera. Unfortunate dark lighting choices really robbed this film of its well deserved audience gratification. The monsters designed for the film looked absolutely amazing in real life, and it’s such a shame that budgeting schedules forced the directors to abandon scenes and shots that might have given more feature to the amazing set and creature designs – dare I say, foetus monster!
Although the directors at this point in time owe more to copycatting than doing anything truly original, their love for the genre is very evident in The Void. The film pays obvious homage to The Beyond (1982) and indeed the entire Lucio Fulci Gates of Hell trilogy, particularly in the climax of the film. As a Twin Peaks fan, it was also a delight to see Kenneth Welsh, famed for beloved sinister agent Windom Earle, fitting perfectly into the sinister role of Dr. Powell.
Some of the concepts in The Void do play off as gimmicky (the triangle holes in the cultist’s hoods smelled too much like a visual marketing ploy to me). The imagery for the film’s advertisement is very much the Illuminatus Trilogy meets Cthulu, and Dr. Powell is very much a modern remake of Dr. Moreau and his sinister experiments. Nevertheless, most of the film is an aesthetic treat of wonderful imagery, with a satisfactorily nonsensical plot to fit the 80’s horror genre.
There is so much to appreciate here on further viewings, and those wondering if the film is worth a gander, the trailer gives a pretty good idea of what to expect:
Production money for The Void was entirely crowd sourced.